From the Mat to the Lab
Biology student Yamini Bhaveshbhai Patel poetically states that she “would never settle for anything, so I dipped my toes in everything.”
From taking engineering classes in high school to having strongly considered joining the Indian army, Patel has explored a plethora of career options. But the medical field has always gripped her. Growing up, she observed friends and family work in medicine in her hometown of Ankleshwar, India, and witnessed the corruption in pharmaceuticals and health insurance.
“There are struggles that both doctors and patients face, and neither party can handle or do anything about it,” she says. “People’s lives are not something to take advantage of.”
In a different sense of the phrase, Patel’s father didn’t want his daughter taken advantage of, either. When she was in first grade, he signed her up for mixed martial arts (MMA) coaching. Since then, she’s competed in international competitions, has won medals, and is the junior world champion in her weight class. In fall 2022, she traveled to Japan to compete in the Asian Cup, where she placed third.
But the biggest prize achieved from her mixed martial artistry was the clarity it provided in terms of choosing a career path.
“As an international martial artist, I’ve witnessed rampant corruption in healthcare systems in many different places,” she says. “It shocks and saddens me, so I’ve decided to do something about it and pursue my bachelor’s degree in biology and minor in business administration.”
Yamini Bhaveshbhai Patel has been training and competing in mixed martial arts since she was in first grade.
Patel is pursuing research on bacteriophages, viruses that infect and replicate only in bacterial cells, under the guidance of Associate Professor of Biological and Chemical Sciences Bryan Gibb, Ph.D. The biology student is studying the development of bacteriophages targeting staphylococcus aureus, pathogenic bacteria that is the leading cause of skin and soft tissue staph infections.
With the bacteria’s ability to develop antibiotic resistance, Patel is researching phage therapy—using bacteriophages to combat staph infections, rather than traditional prescription antibiotics. Since her freshman year, Patel has presented her scholarly research at the Symposium of University Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE).
“Professor Gibb introduced me to bacteriophages during my first semester at New York Tech, and I’ve been hooked on the wonders of phage therapy ever since,” she says. “The more I work on it, read about it, and become engaged in wet lab research, the more passionate I become about all I could possibly do in the future with phage therapy.”
Phage therapy wasn’t the only collegiate-level endeavor Patel pursued in her freshman year. She’s been an active Student Government Association (SGA) member and was elected president for the Long Island campus for the 2023–2024 academic year. Patel is leveraging her presidency to be a voice for the student body and to make positive contributions on campus.
“I am constantly inspired by the opportunity to serve and make a lasting impact on behalf of our student body,” she says. “Each step has been a lesson, and every experience has shaped me into the leader I am today: committed to be a voice for our student community and advocate for their aspirations. I also want to help create more resources and on-campus job opportunities to help students build their résumé.”
As she presses forward with her biology research and SGA responsibilities, Patel continues to compete in MMA. What began as a journey to simply learn self-defense has evolved into a joyful passion that she takes pride in. In India, Patel taught free self-defense MMA classes to women and children. She hopes to someday create an MMA team that can continue spreading that goodwill.
Patel has several professional goals, including obtaining a Ph.D. focusing on public health, continuing medical research, and—above all—creating her own healthcare company.
“Everyone should have access to healthcare as a basic human right,” she says.